Category Archives: The 95 Method and Technology

Back to Design Basics

I recently watched Peter Skillman (VP Designof HERE) discuss an experiment he conducted and the discoveries he made while doing it – listen below:

The kindergartners outperformed all the “smart” people in the experiment!  The lowest performing group . . . business students.

Telling.  Organizations have over-thought and over-designed just about everything – leading to complexity and waste by designing in  their own problems.

Over and over again I have found that the approach from management in service organizations is to get an idea, plan and roll-out to the organization via project management the implementation of the idea.  Long projects (Over 6 months) have requirements change because of the dynamic nature of service.  The project is typically obsolete before the implementation is finished.

Information technology companies selling software perpetuate and lock in the waste by “nailing down” requirements and writing contracts that impede or dismiss an iterative approach.  In fact, the whole software development process has created a barrier to changing requirements.

Those software companies that do iterative type of software development are still missing the work design issues that need to be dealt with before starting to code.  The business requirements are born from a poor work design and can only be seen when developers actually understand the work – not through written requirements, but through observation and iteratively improving the work.  This is a programmer-user activity with no intermediaries.

Few software companies address the work design itself and when they do it is usually a retrofitting activity.  Slam the software in and then make process improvements.  The operating assumption is that the design ONLY needs process improvement rather than redesign BEFORE any software is provisioned.  Monthly sales targets in a software organization wouldn’t allow such diligence and even if this didn’t exist most software organizations don’t have the knowledge to do a redesign (one of the reasons I offer a workshop and consulting in this area).

Service organizations would be better off to design/redesign services before pulling in IT companies.  When you have iteratively discovered a better design, then software may make sense.  Service organizations just like to do things backwards . . . an operating reality.

Regardless, there are better ways to go about improving service organizations than the large single-focused project.  We are better off being armed with knowledge and an “iterative” discovery process than the business school definition being used today.

Take a look at your organization as your customers see it –  our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.”  You will understand the customer view of your organization and take inventory of the assumptions, beliefs and perspectives that drive performance.  Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect and organizational futurist.  His company helps service organizations understand future trends, culture and customer.  The 95 Method designs organizations to improve the comprehensive customer experience while improving culture and management effectiveness.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CallCenterIQReach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

 

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Telecomm Still a Nightmare for Customers

I really don’t enjoy writing these blog posts on bad customer experiences, because the experience is real for me or someone else.  It would be a wonderful world if a customer could walk in and get the service expected or their problem solved.  This would be end of story.  However, this isn’t the world customers live in.

I was doing a podcast this past Monday with David Houle, a futurist and one question I asked him was, “Is the end of caveat emptor or ‘buyer beware’ at hand.”  His response was that companies that live without trust with customers were basically dinosaurs that aren’t surviving today’s environment, never mind tomorrows.

That same day I started working with my current carrier Sprint to get 4 new phones for the family.  I stopped into a Sprint-owned retail store to begin the exchange.  I read online that you could get a discounted price on new Apple phones.  Iwas informed by the Sprint agent that that price was only good for “new” customers.  I informed the agent of my displeasure and that moving to a new carrier now was an easier decision.

I went home and thought I would give Sprint one last chance by trying Twitter and Sprint’s @customercare, here is the exchange:

No end to the discussion.  As my last question has not been answered as of January 2, 2014.  Needless to say, I was disappointed in Sprint’s response.  I am not a fly-by-night customer as I have been a customer of Sprint for more than 20 years, but new customers are their focus.

The story does not end here.

I went to Verizon on December 30th to give them my business and was given a plan from one of the agents that fit my needs.  It was a bit more expensive, but I was a motivated buyer.  Anything to find an organization that appreciates my business.  The Verizon agent gave me a quote  and I told him I would collect the phones I had and bring them in the following day.  The agent informed me the “trade-in” value of the old phones was only good through December 31st.

The next day I stopped in at the store with phones in hand to complete the purchase.  I was informed by the Verizon agent that the agent that helped me the day before was not in and because he was paid on commission, he would have to send me to a non-commissioned agent.  After a 20-minute wait, I was passed to the non-commissioned agent.

The non-commissioned agent and I worked through 40 minutes of paperwork and checking that the phones I wanted were in stock.  We started the exchange and I was met with a fraud stoppage from the credit department.  Apparently, by buying 4 phones I tripped some fraud audit.  The agent said that my order was to be put on hold until I cleared the fraud audit and that could take up to 72 hours.  The non-commissioned agent called me January 1 (yesterday) to give me the number that was needed to clear the audit.  The saga continues . . . I will update.

I would like to think that David Houle was right and that companies had designed services that build trust.  However, my experience has been that caveat emptor is alive and well.  The consumer has to fight for themselves as commissioned sales people and having to do things on your own (as a customer) to progress an order are not user-friendly experiences.

Both Sprint and Verizon profess world-class customer service, but neither delivers on a consistent basis.  As most service organizations, they can not see themselves from a customer viewpoint.  They can only see the result of what they have designed and there is a lot of waste they are missing.  The waste is innate in the design they have chosen and will remain until they take a customer’s viewpoint.

Take a look at your organization as your customers see it –  our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.”  Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect and organizational futurist.  His company helps service organizations understand future trends, culture and customer.  The 95 Method designs organizations to improve the comprehensive customer experience.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Information Technology in a Functionally Separated World

It’s like a kick in the head . . . every time I walk into a service organization and have a look at their operations- by performing “check” – I am left with the same sense of disbelief as the previous service organization.  Front-line staff left with no hope of delivering service from entrapping technology.  No one considered the customer or felt any need to supply an IT “solution” that was cost effective end-to-end.

Blame can rest with both the service organization and the IT provider.  However, the service organization can change the game by actually designing services that focus their attention on the customer and what matters to them.  IT will be forced to follow when you provide systemic solutions.  The beauty of this is that it results in less IT spend and happier customers which translates to lower total costs.

Contrast this to the functionally separated organizations that must do process improvement and IT with cross-functionally groups.  Starting here puts service organizations behind by trying to coddle the silos of organizations.  This makes them slow to move and expensive.

Yet, we still have front offices and back offices, separated departments in organizations and the like.  The hope is that optimizing the pieces will result in improvement . . . it never does, no matter what kind of leader their is leading a silo.

Information technology will enable no organization until it comes to grips with the functional separation of work in service orgs.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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The 67 Year Thinking Problem

If it wasn’t bad enough that SPC charts disappeared from the Hawthorne Plant after WWII as management adopted a mass-production mindset, 67 years after Japan kicked our collective behinds we still think the same about management.  Worse, we have even fallen deeper into insignificance in the US.  Short-term thinking driven by the financial markets and management with an attention span of the TV generation struggle to compete and innovate.

Buying and selling companies for profit and mergers for economy of scale.  Except profit comes from satisfying customers in new and different ways  . . . and mergers have not achieved the scale needed to increase profit as this comes from economies of flow.  The scale fantasy continues to drive the wrong behavior.

With great embarrassment, the US still tries to copy Japan.  How do you catch a competitor by copying?  It always keeps you behind.  Finding out what matters to customers leads to innovation that is emergent from what you learn.

Instead of thinking for ourselves, we embrace “gurus” that study Japan and have never actually applied the hypothesis.  Because if they had they would discover the truth through application.

The clock is still ticking . . .

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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